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Happy Thanksgiving: Let's Give Thanks for a Greener NYC

posted Nov 24, 2010, 12:17 PM by Skylight Education   [ updated Nov 24, 2010, 1:03 PM ]
November 24th, 2010
by Brian Wennersten
New York, New York - This holiday we have a lot to be thankful for in the green building world! It has been a long and winding (sometimes uphill) road, and we still have a lot of distance to cover, but how great is it to see all of these wonderful laws being put into effect in New York City over the last few months! We have watched and waited over the years...listening, participating and reading about the legislation aimed to improve the energy and water efficiency of our many existing buildings. To see these changes beginning to take place is a wonderful victory for our city.

 The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, included under plaNYC, was passed last December, but is now beginning to be implemented along with rolling out several new regulations. This plan affects our largest existing buildings of 50,000 square feet or larger. The aim is to push the city closer to “sustainability” through their four new codes that will take effect from now until 2025. According to the city's website, this will “result in an emissions reduction of almost five percent. It will also reduce citywide energy costs by $700 million annually by 2030 and create roughly 17,800 construction-related jobs over ten years.”     


While sorting out which laws require what and when they will be enforced, there seems to be new green building codes adopted just about every week to top that off.  Last year the Urban Green Council, the New York City chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, introduced Green Building code recommendations to the city council.  The Green Codes Task Force, a group of dedicated volunteers and Urban Green Council staff, proposed 111 recommendations.  I was present at City Hall when the recommendations were handed over and I remember feeling very optimistic about the movement towards decreasing the impact that our buildings have on the environment.  While I was not a part of putting the codes together, as a volunteer of the Urban Green Council, I had a huge sense of pride for their accomplishment of completing such an extensive report.  


Here we are, less than a year later, and sixteen of the recommendations have been adopted

These new codes will add environmental protection as the fundamental principle of construction codes.  This includes health and toxicity of building components, energy efficiency and water efficiency.  Most notable the code that will save billions of gallons of water each year by increasing efficiency standards on new and replacement plumbing fixtures beginning in 2012.  Also, lighting efficiency will be more stringent as codes will require occupant sensors and reduced artificial lighting in sunlit lobbies and hallways.


Residing in a city of this magnitude, even small measures across the board create positive change. As new codes and laws are adopted, the city demonstrates that not only has the market shifted towards green building, but the public sector is now following suit acknowledging that there are green building measures that can be done and should be done every time. 
Happy Thanksgiving!